Did you know that your business website is a lot like your car? It’s true.
We depend on our cars for many things. It’s really hard to get around town without one. Running errands, meeting clients, rushing to the bank: as a business owner, how do you do these things without a car in most areas? That’s why we make regular, ongoing investments to keep our cars in good working order. We fill the gas tank. We check the oil. We go to the mechanic for tune-ups as needed.
Now think about your business website. We’re very dependent on our business websites. In many cases, your website is the primary point of contact for both new and returning customers. Sales, customer service, and brand building – it all happens on your business website.
Yet many small business owners don’t perform any maintenance or monitoring of their websites. In fact, they hardly engage with their websites at all once they’re launched. This is the equivalent of getting your new car from the dealership, driving away, and never once visiting a gas station or mechanic.
How long do you think that car will last under those conditions? If you don’t want your business website to stall out or break down, you need to take charge of the situation and start performing regular check-ups weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Here’s what you need to look for:
Weekly Website Reviews
Give your website a quick visual inspection. Does everything look right? Are images and videos behaving as you expect them to? Click on a few links throughout your site – different ones every week! – to see if they take you to the correct pages.
If you run into any issues, contact your tech team for a quick fix. It’s easier for them, and on your wallet, to perform a small tune up than it would be to run through the laundry list of items you might find if you waited a month or two in between website reviews.
Read Your Google Webmaster Report:
Every business owner should be signed up for Google Webmaster. This free program provides you with valuable data about your website. The application offers some great insights, including a report on any broken links on your website, information about the last time Google indexed your website, etc. These are important to monitor for effective SEO.
Your Google Webmaster Report will also alert you if there are any viruses on your site, something that must be remedied as soon as possible.
Review Your Google Analytics:
Google Analytic reports also give you a great deal of information about your website. You’ll be able to see how much traffic your website gets and what sources this traffic is coming from. This is crucial if you’re tracking the impact of a new marketing initiative. How long do visitors stay on your website? What is your bounce rate? A bounce rate measures how many visitors come, view a single webpage, and then leave your site.
Bear in mind that, in some situations, for example if you have a popular blog, a high bounce rate may be acceptable. If you are not sure if you have a healthy bounce rate, contact your marketing team.
Monthly Website Reviews
Data collection forms, such as the ones used to request a consultation, send feedback or sign-up for newsletter subscribers should be tested regularly to make sure they’re still working.
Try testing your forms using different email addresses and from different devices and Web browsers.
Shopping Cart Test:
If you have any type of shopping cart on your site, run a complete test order every month to make sure your shopping cart system is operating seamlessly. Review your shipping and taxes on the order and pay attention to each screen, as well as to the receipts you receive. This is the shopping experience you are providing for your customers. You want to make sure it’s a good one.
If you identify any problems, you need to let your web development team know right away.
Review Dynamic Content:
Compare the dynamic content you’ve added to your website (blogs, podcasts, videos, new merchandise) with the numbers you’ve seen during your weekly Google Analytics review. Is the content delivering the results you’d like to see in terms of traffic, stickiness, and conversion?
If not, adjustments may be in order.
How quickly does your website load? How quickly do individual pages come up? A sudden change in the rate of load speed indicates that something may be wrong, and it may be related to how dynamic elements are coded or changes in the web host server.
Quarterly Website Reviews
Is It Time for an Upgrade?
Open source Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are continually improving their platforms. They make changes to their codes so sites built with their technology are more secure, more virus-resistant, and load faster.
Generally, there will be a message alerting you that an upgrade is available in the dashboard area of your website. If you see this message, it’s time to let your web developer know.
Don’t try to do the update yourself. Hitting that ‘Upgrade Now’ button can totally wreck any custom coding or third party plug-ins you may have on your site.
Review User Names & Passwords:
Internal security is important. Do you have the user name and passwords for all accounts associated with your website? Accounts may include Google accounts for Analytics, Webmaster or Adwords; shopping cart passwords for tools like PayPal or Authorize.net; and website control through FTP, C-Panel or web hosting accounts.
For security purposes, passwords should be changed routinely – and always if you’ve let go of an employee who previously had this access and permission.
As a business owner, you are ultimately responsible for your website. If you have an in-house team, this list is a great way to start implementing a process that will increase your focus on one of the most valuable marketing tools you have. If you have an external team you may want to request a cost for this level of monitoring.
The fact is that the Web changes, and upgrades to Web browsers or operating systems can cause changes. Even good old fashion human error can occur when editing a site.
If you pay close attention to your website you can catch things before they cause any loss of business.